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AGRF Wrap Up: African Development Bank showcases digital opportunities in agriculture at Green Revolution Forum
More than 2,300 delegates gathered in the Ghanaian capital recently for the African Green Revolution Forum to discuss the future of African agriculture.
The delegates included heads of state, ministers, central bank governors, heads of international and development agencies, as well as private sector leaders and youth “agripreneurs”.
The African Development Bank was among those who joined the decision makers in Accra, led by Dr. Jennifer Blanke, Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.
The Forum’s theme, “Grow Digital,” provided an opportunity to showcase digital and other agriculture initiatives aligned with the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy.
Over the four days, Bank delegates took part in more than half-a-dozen panels, plenaries and workshops, including:
Digital, Digital, Digital
Data is emerging as one of the most important ways to optimise agricultural systems and feed a growing population.
At the plenary session on Advancing Digital Strategies at Country Level, Vice President Blanke shared the stage with experts in the ag-tech industry. They explored digital solutions to increase African agricultural productivity.
Blanke was joined by Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director of African Women in Agricultural Research and member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel; Dr. Parmesh Shah, Global Lead for Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Jobs at the World Bank; and representatives from the governments of Kenya, Togo and Rwanda.
“We all need to get with the programme, and understand that in ten years, the landscape is going to be entirely different,” Blanke said, warning that African nations needed to train youth for digital and ag-tech careers. “Agriculture has huge potential [for digitisation],” she added.
The Bank used the forum to promote its new flagship “Digital Solutions for African Agriculture” initiative. In aother session, Digital Disruption: Opportunities to Increase Productivity, Access to Inputs, Services and Markets in the Agricultural Sector, Bank Director for Agriculture and Agro-industry Dr. Martin Fregene said the initiative aims to increase investments in digital enablers across agriculture value chains in Africa. Fregene said the programme would support the impact of technology by engaging with farmers, researchers, the private sector, financial institutions and governments.
“Africa is part of the digital age. We have four million farmers with mobile phones in Uganda. There are five million mobile transactions [happening] in Togo, Nigeria and Sierra Leone,” said Fregene.
Malnutrition took center stage at the session titled Boosting Accountability and Accelerating Accessibility Action to Support Nutrition-Sensitive Sustainable Food Systems. Panelists, including session keynote speaker, 2018 World Food Prize Laureate and Executive Director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Lawrence Haddad, looked at how to move past the talk about nourishing populations, to actually taking specific actions.
Moderator Dr. Martin Fregene offered an impassioned perspective to set the tone for the session:
“If you’ve ever known a child who suffered from protein deficiency and who is stunted…then you realise the burden of malnutrition is real - and it is terrible,” Fregene said.
Haddad cited the Bank’s “African Leaders for Nutrition” as a fantastic pan-African program, saying there was a need for more nutrition champions at the national level to advocate for improved food systems.
Scale Up Sourcebook
The AGRF hosted the official release of the digital and print version of the Scale Up Sourcebook, an easy-to-use reference on using agricultural innovation to meet the needs of the world’s poor.
At the launch, Vice President Blanke told attendees the Bank was pleased to collaborate with Purdue University to co-finance the project.
Blanke said the Sourcebook is in line with the Bank’s objectives to scale up technologies for the African agricultural transformation
Leadership 4 Agriculture: Ghana exports more than 15,000 tons of foodstuffs to neighbouring countries- Agric Minister
Ghana’s Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, was the keynote speaker at the re-launch of the Bank’s Leadership 4 Agriculture (L4Ag) programme, a platform to assist African agriculture ministers and other key stakeholders to promote strong growth in agricultural production and value addition in their countries.
The one-day meeting, organized by the Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was held on the sidelines of AGRF. Akoto told attendees about Ghana’s first ever export of more than 150,000 metric tons of foodstuffs to neighboring countries and that his country’s other agricultural achievements are in alignment with L4Ag’s mission.
“This [record-making export] has resulted in the creation of some one million jobs in the rural economy,” Akoto said.
Between Forum events, the Bank hosted numerous bilateral meetings, including with decision makers from: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; the Food and Land Use Coalition; Nestle; Global Panel; Bioversity International; the Clinton Development Institute; the Cooperative Development Council of Canada; Yara International: International Fund for Agricultural Development; the World Bank; the Africa Green Revolution Alliance and with (right) Bamboo Capital Partners, a private equity firm specializing in enterprises that benefit low-income communities in emerging markets.